Dealing with Performance Anxiety: 1. The Importance of Sound Preparation
Performance anxiety is something that all musicians, thespians, in fact anyone who goes on stage to give a performance experiences. I would go as far as to say that it is necessary, for the performance to have that something unique and special. The key issue is how we can use the sense of anxiety whilst the preparation is ongoing, and positively channel the nerves on the day.
Sound preparation is essential; a good foundation of musical understanding and technical facility are indispensable. The performer must be aware of the background of the composer, the work, and the all-important musical message of the particular work(s) to be performed. Technical trouble-spots should be dealt with in advance, utilising good practice strategies to minimise unnecessary tension on the day. Finally, performance practice can be sought just by putting yourself in the situation where you can’t start a piece then just stop and go, ‘Sorry, can I start again?’
Having gone through the preparations, it is time to enjoy the performance, the best you can; always bear in mind that the audience are on your side, and if anything, they are certainly not interested in your mistakes, worries and panics, but they are there, only to enjoy your performance, the music, and the experience that the musical messages and the aural sensations bring.
Mistakes will happen, for sure, and it should be expected; otherwise, if we just want that note-perfect rendition, we can just put on a CD! It is part of the charm of a live performance, and what is important is how not to show any disappointment or disgust but just to carry on as if nothing has happened, or even, that that was how it was meant to go. ‘A performance is just a series of damage control.’ I exaggerate, but with all possible preparations done, we can only do the best on the day, and it is far more important to have fun, and derive joy from the process of music making!
Masayuki Tayama, Director of The Piano Teachers' Course UK
Since his London debut in 2002, Masayuki Tayama has maintained a highly active schedule as both an international pianist and piano pedagogue. His teaching incorporates the method taught by Sumiko Mikimoto on muscle relaxation and training for pianists, guiding students to become aware of their bodies whilst playing and avoid unnecessary tension and resultant pain or discomfort.